By Lorie Swaydan, Huntsman World Senior Games

What are they?

On just about every street corner,  in coffee shops, restaurants and now in most gyms, you can order a smoothie. What is the fuss all about? A smoothie usually has fruits and sometimes vegetables pureed with a little liquid to make a thick, rich, creamy beverage. Many people enjoy them as snacks. Others use them as meal replacements. They come in a variety of flavors and can be as simple as three ingredients or as complex as one wants to make them. According to Paula Atwell at azcentral.com, smoothies are part of a $5 billion dollar business, and will probably remain popular because of their versatility, convenience and delicious taste.

Benefits

According to Healthline.com smoothies offer many benefits. They are portable and can be adjusted to any taste. Experts agree that they are a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, which are often high in fiber and support the immune and digestive systems by increasing the intake of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Watch out for added sugar and calories

Smoothies, however, are not always “healthy.” Many contain added sugars, refined fiber or additional calories due to high-fat ingredients such as peanut butter, avocado or full fat yogurt. So, it’s important to carefully check the food labels and assess the overall calorie content. Ansley Hill, RD, LD suggests, “Generally, a 200–300-calorie smoothie with 10 grams of protein is a great snack, whereas a 400–800-calorie smoothie providing at least 20 grams of protein is better suited as a meal replacement.” Also, just because it is marked “No Sugar Added” doesn’t guarantee that the naturally occurring sugar isn’t mainly coming from apple juice concentrate, “...which is highly refined and processed and hardly different from sugar or high fructose corn syrup,” says Pritikin nutritionist and educator Kimberly Gomer. Furthermore, be careful to check the serving size. A commercial smoothie may be labeled as 80 calories per 8 ounce serving. If the bottle is 16 ounces, you are taking in almost the same amount of calories as a can of soda! Yes, smoothies are a great way to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, but the USDA recommends, “most of the fruit Americans eat should be whole fruit, not fruit juice.”

(https://www.pritikin.com/are-smoothies-healthy-weight-loss) Finally, If you are hoping that drinking your meals will help you lose weight, some research suggests that liquids don’t make you feel as full as eating solid food, and just because you drink it - the calories still count! However, if you add protein to your smoothie, it should help you feel fuller, longer.

Make them affordable

One of the biggest benefits of smoothies is their convenience. Smoothie bars are everywhere with an average cost of about $6. But making your own is easy too, and it can be done for less money, depending on the quantity and quality of the ingredients. Cookinglight.com recommends the following suggestions to keep the cost of homemade smoothies low. First, keep the recipes simple. A very tasty smoothie can be made from just three ingredients! Also, buy your ingredients in large quantities, when the items are on sale, or when the produce is in season. Fruits and vegetables can be frozen in serving size portions. They can even be pureed ahead of time and stored in ice cube trays. Buying bags of frozen fruits and vegetables is also cost effective. And don’t forget to use your brown bananas (or freeze them to use later). Then you will have everything you need all year round to make a delicious, nutritious smoothie!

Favorite Combos

For an easy and tasty smoothie, enjoy one of the following popular combinations:

Banana + berries + spinach + a splash of lowfat milk

Banana + peanut butter + a little fruit juice

Mango + pineapple + coconut milk

Watermelon + lime + some fruit sorbet

 

If you’re looking for something a little more substantial or a little more daring, try a mix of any of the following ingredients:

 

Fruits and Veggies: any berry or fruit; spinach, kale, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes or pureed pumpkin (fruits and veggies can be fresh or frozen)

Liquids: fruit and/or vegetable puree or juice, almond or coconut milk, frozen yogurt, Greek yogurt, or even brewed tea or coffee, vanilla or other flavorings

Sweeteners: sugar, maple syrup, honey, chopped dates, flavored yogurt or sorbet

Herbs and Spices: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, basil, mint, cilantro, cocoa powder, cumin

Nuts and Seeds: nut butters, flax meal, chia, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds

Protein: milk, nut butters, protein powder, avocado, or oats

 

Whether going out to a juice bar with friends, or just hanging at home with the kids, add smoothies to your recipe repertoire and enjoy these satisfying, nutritious drinks!